Strength comes in all sizes

Strength comes in all sizes

I’m alive and well! I’m pleased to report that I survived my mouth surgery yesterday. I arrived at hospital at 7.30am and was due to be operated on at 9am, however, they had to delay me because of another patient so I didn’t go in until 3.30pm! I was sitting in a waiting room, so wasn’t even able to get comfortable in a bed and take a nap.

The doctors couldn’t predict how much pain I would be in, because it depends on my nerve damage (I still only have about 50% feeling in the left side of my face since my accident). I chose to think optimistically, but sadly I was mistaken! I woke up in heaps of pain, and I swear it was even worse than after my first operation, because this time they wouldn’t give me any morphine!

I was due to leave the hospital three hours after my operation, but at that point I couldn’t imagine sitting up, let alone walking out of there. I had a really bad reaction to the anaesthesia this time around, as it made me extremely nauseous and light-headed. Thankfully, Rob escorted me home so I just had to concentrate on staying upright. Every time I’m in hospital I seem to be surrounded by vomiting patients so I just wanted to get the heck out of there!

They took my blood pressure about 10 times throughout the day, and it’s below average. Each time it was between 90-95 over 50-55, whereas I’m normally much more like 115/80. It could have been because I’d gone almost 24 hours without food or water. I haven’t mentioned this yet, but when I was in Ibiza I fainted. You may remember that I fainted about just over a year ago as well, and I wasn’t kidding when I said I wanted to faint during my competition! Obviously something is wrong so I’m going to get it properly checked out as soon as I can.

Anyway, I’m resting up today and I am hoping to be back in the gym this Sunday. No rest for the wicked!

Moving on… Today I wanted to address a comment I got on Facebook the other day.

fb comment

This comment is not an uncommon reaction. A lot of people are surprised when I tell them I do strongman and say that I am “too tiny” to compete. I think it’s a huge stereotype that all strongmen and women are massive. Whenever I mention anything about powerlifting or strongman to regular people, they usually ask me if that means I’m going to get fat.

I’ve said it many times on this blog, but lifting weights does not make you huge. Hell, I wish it was that easy to gain muscle! I often think it’s unfair how hard I’ve had to work for what little muscle mass I do have.

Strongmen events are not drug-tested in the UK, so you are free to take steroids and get as huge as you like, if you’re that way inclined. It varies from competition to competition, but I don’t think there could have been more than one woman on drugs at my comp on Sunday.

It was amazing to see how strength really does come in all shapes and sizes. In my division, the top three women all looked like “normal” lean women. They all looked athletic and, based on stereotypes, you would have never thought they would be the type to deadlift 180kg.

The trophy winners - the girl on the far left won my division

The trophy winners – the girl on the far left won my division

The woman who placed fourth was amazing. I’ve since found out she weighs 57kg. She was due to compete in the U63 novice division, but decided to step into the main qualifier on the day. She did at least 140kg on the zercher squat and kicked my arse on the farmers and sled pull. Not only was she stronger than me by pure numbers, pound for pound she blew me out of the water! She has competed in bikini competitions and has what most women would consider an ideal body.

Again, in the under 63kg division, you would have never expected that any of the women were strong powerlifter types. They just looked like your average young girl who goes to the gym.

All the competitors - I'm hiding in the back!

All the competitors – I’m hiding in the back!

In the open novice division, there were a number of extremely inspiring women competing. They looked like average mums, and I would have never expected them to lift what they did. Heck, one of them talked to me in the carpark outside and I assumed she was here to watch one of her children compete! There was another lady who was around 60 who was a freaking beast lifting the same weights as me. I only hope I can still be that strong at that age!

Conversely, I have met some buff-looking dudes who really can’t lift that much at all. Appearances can be deceiving on both sides of the coin!

Therefore, being strong does not mean you look like a hulk. Some powerlifters are fat, true, but it is not an automatic. My trainer weighs 120kg but he is absolutely ripped and beats guys that weigh 30kg more than him. Like I’ve said before, fat doesn’t make you strong – muscle does.

Nicole Coleman is a national powerlifter who competed in the 2012 Bikini Olympia

Nicole Coleman is a national powerlifter who competed in the 2012 Bikini Olympia


The only reason why powerlifters and strongmen tend to be a little fluffier than bodybuilders is because their number one priority is strength and not aesthetics. The night before a competition (not to mention the weeks leading up to it!) we are stuffing our faces with everything in sight and not worrying about how many grams of carbs and fat we’re consuming. Some people take this to the extreme level and eat like horses all the time, but there’s no reason you can’t remain lean AND strong.

The good news is that because of the intense training I do, I can eat a lot more than if I was bodybuilding yet still remain relatively lean. It’s a win-win!

Have you ever been surprised by someone’s strength? When you tell people you lift, do they assume you should look bigger?

PS. Apologies for any typos – my brain is still a little foggy!

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